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Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Day 24

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 24 – Tuesday after 4th Sunday of Lent

To Read:                                                              

From The Screwtape Letters:

Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon.  The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.


You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it.   May I ask what you are about?   Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church?   Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing?   Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches?

The reasons are obvious.   In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires.   The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.   In the second place, the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.

Your affectionate uncle


To Reflect:

When I first went to Boarding School, far away from home near a county town that was to later become my home, I was quizzed as to which church I went to.  A difficult task for an 11-year-old who was baptized in a ship’s bell in Malta when six and had come to love God in an evangelical Sunday School held in a prefab hut on the edge of a bombed-out dock area near Tipner, Portsmouth. (God Bless you Aggies)

The conversation went like this:

Housemaster:    ‘Which Church do you go to Dotchin?’

Self:                    ‘Aggie Weston’s, Royal Sailor’s Rest, sir.’

Housemaster:    ‘We don’t have one of those here.  Are you Catholic?’

Self:                    (with no idea what ‘Catholic’ meant) ‘No, sir’

Housemaster:    ‘Are you Church of Scotland or Free Church then?”

Self:                    ‘No sir, that’s my Dad’s church and he never goes to church’

Housemaster:    ‘Right, you’ll be going to the big church then’.

And suddenly I found myself to be a member of the Church of England.  As they say, ‘God moves in mysterious ways!’

I have no beef against my sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Churches or the Non-Conformist Churches and am happy to work with all of them but find myself incredibly content to be a parish vicar in parish churches both in South Africa and here at home in Suffolk.  All of them are made up of a gorgeous cornucopia of different ‘sorts and conditions of men (and women)’ and I believe they are richer communities because of their diversity.  We are blessed to have ‘a unity of place not of likings’.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom when asked if he would ever leave the Orthodox Church in which he grew up replied with surprise ‘Why?  God is not elsewhere.’  Screwtape and his minions would encourage us to believe that if we indulge in a fit of ‘church hopping’ we will eventually find a ‘home’ that met all our needs.  In fact all that would happen would be that we, instead of becoming conformed to Christ, would have transformed God into our own image! 

In the enthusiasm that comes with wonderful movements that Lesley-Anne and I have met such as AlphaCursilloHappening, and Marriage Encounter, and national events such as Spring HarvestGreenbelt and the Keswick Convention, there is always a temptation for pilgrims to go on a journey to find a ‘better’ place where God can, it seems, be ‘served’ more fully.  If we are dissatisfied with the church community where we currently are we may often yearn to go to other places.  But it is in our home church, no matter how awkward and dull it may seem to be, where God needs us to be most at work.  ‘Bloom where you are planted’, should be warning words for all those who have itchy theological feet.

If I were to choose which church to attend, to find the place where I think I will grow most and find most comfort, it would not always be the local parish church.  But I know if I moved away from ‘the big church’ of my boarding school years any growth I gained would be for me, myself, and me alone – an unholy trinity if ever there were one!  The end result of this wild goose chase would be for me to become ‘ingrown’ like a bothersome toenail and instead of my faith bringing life to those around me, it would bring only infection and disease.

To Do:

Find a way to lance the boil of an ingrown faith – here’s one way.

The next time you worship in your home church endeavour to spend time with, hug even, that one person you have been avoiding.

This may take several Sundays, as there may be more than one person who needs to be hugged – I speak from experience.

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        Let the people praise you, O God: let all creation praise you.

We praise you dear God in your holy city, 

we renew our vows in the holy places.

For you meet us in the depths of our being, 

when we come to confess all that is true of us.

When our misdeeds haunt us with their power, 

your generous love sweeps them aside.     Refrain:

Blessed are those whom you choose as your friends, 

who lodge with you in your house.

You empower them with talents and gifts, 

you crown them with an abundance of blessings.     Refrain:

In dread deeds you will deliver us, 

O God of our salvation, 

for you are the hope of the ends of the earth, 

and of the distant seas.     Refrain:

By your strength you make the mountains rise, 

by your power you gouge the valleys deep.

You still the raging of the seas, 

the roaring of the waves, 

and the tumult of the peoples.     Refrain:

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth 

are held in awe at your wonders: 

the dawn and the evening sing your praise.    Refrain:

You tend the earth and you water it, 

you make it rich and fertile.

Your clouds are full of water, 

they provide rain for the swelling grain.    Refrain:

You drench the furrows, 

you level the ridges between, 

you soften the soil with showers 

and bless its early growth.

You refresh hearts withered and dry, 

you bring to life the land parched with drought.    Refrain:

You crown our years with your good gifts, 

the fruit trees drip with abundance.

The alpine pastures shimmer with green, 

the hills are wreathed with dancing clouds.

The meadows are clothed with sheep, 

and the valleys mantled with corn.    Refrain:

Loving God, ceaselessly redeeming and creating, astonishing us with your abundant generosity, and still our hearts in awe and wonder.     AMEN.     (Jim Cotter) 


Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin

If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte

Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

These Reflections,  ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023

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